FA Cup weekend: Roy Keane to the fore in England's soccer showpiece

Plunkett Carter looks at the Corkonians who shone in the FA Cup final, including Keano, who collected four medals from six appearances
FA Cup weekend: Roy Keane to the fore in England's soccer showpiece

Manchester United's Roy Keane lifts the FA Cup trophy after his last and fourth success, in 2004 against Milwall. He played in six finals in total.

THE 1969 decider between Man City and Leicester provided another first for Cork.

Frank O’Farrell (Leicester boss), then the most highly sought coach in England, became the first Irishman to manage an FA Cup finalist.

O’Farrell, like his colleague and friend Noel Cantwell, had his skills nurtured with Western Rovers before they signed originally for West Ham.

Frank O'Farrell was the first Irishman to manage in the FA Cup final.
Frank O'Farrell was the first Irishman to manage in the FA Cup final.

Wembley came in for a lot of criticism in those years and Man City boss Joe Mercer likened it on that occasion to a cabbage field.

Manchester won 1-0 and took the trophy to Maine Road for the fourth time thanks to Neil Young’s priceless score. Mercer became the first to win the trophy as a player and manager.

In 1983 Man Utd won the FA Cup for the fifth time when they defeated relegated Brighton 4-0 in a replay which was required after the first match ended 2-2.

Nineteen-year-old Capwell boy Kieran O’Regan made his debut for Brighton the week before the final as a replacement for suspended right-back Chris Ramsey.

Cork's Kieran O'Regan, in an extract from 1983 FA Cup programme.
Cork's Kieran O'Regan, in an extract from 1983 FA Cup programme.

He was still in the mix for a place at Wembley during cup final week as the Seagulls had some defensive injury concerns.

Manager Jimmy Melia told the press: “Kieran is going to be a hell of a player. He only looks about 14 but he’s mature enough as a player to figure in my Wembley plans.”

In the event, forward Gerry Ryan got the nod for the one substitute’s place on the day, and rather ironically had to come on and play right-back in place of the crocked Chris Ramsey.

Kieran was included in the final squad featured on the souvenir match day programme and was the unlucky 13 sitting on the bench beneath Wembley’s twin towers.

Other Irish players involved were Tony Grealish (captain), Gary Howlett, and Michael Robinson (Brighton) while Man Utd featured Kevin Moran, Frank Stapleton and Ashley Grimes.

Brighton were superb in the first match and only a brilliant save by United keeper Gary Baily in the closing minutes prevented them from winning the first major trophy in their history.

With the game tied at 2-2 and seconds remaining, Robinson skipped past Gordon McQueen and squared for Gordon Smith whose shot from eight yards was stopped by Bailey.

Smith’s miss, or in reality Bailey’s save, has become one of football’s greatest, ‘what if’, moments. United made no mistake in the replay and romped to a 4-0 victory with goals from Robson (2), Whiteside and Muhren.


Nineteen-year-old Mayfield boy Roy Keane, a product of Rockmount, who had for years agonised over his failure to obtain a placement as a professional footballer in England eventually struck gold when his career was fast-tracked at an enormous rate following his signing by Nottingham Forrest.

He was blessed, too, that manager Brian Clough became an instant admirer and had no hesitation in sending him straight to his engine room. Clough kept him guessing for a while during cup final week in 1991 before giving him the nod ahead of English international Steve Hodge to face Tottenham at Wembley.

Paul Gascoigne’s goals throughout that season helped Spurs reach the final. He was so pumped up for the match that his involvement could have ended after minutes when he escaped with a caution after a reckless challenge on Paul Parker.

He didn’t learn, and subsequent dangerous tackles saw him walking on thin ice. Gascoigne then scythed down Gary Charles on the edge of the box and Stuart Pearce hammered home the free kick. Minutes later Gascoigne was stretchered off with what turned out to be a torn cruciate ligament.

It looked like Forrest’s name might have been on the cup when Mark Crossley saved a Gary Lineker penalty in the 30th minute. Paul Stewart equalised for Spurs after the interval and with extra-time looming Des Walker diverted a dangerous ball past his own keeper to give Spurs the trophy for a record eighth time.

Keane handled his first FA Cup final appearance with style. His positional play like his passing was spot on throughout the match.

He timed his runs into the penalty area so effectively that he was close to scoring several times. Overall his performance belied his tender footballing years.

Roy was transferred to Man United in 1993 where he joined with Togher native and former Everton schoolboy Denis Irwin who had signed from Oldham in 1990.

Irwin won his first major honour with United when they beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Euro Cup Winners Cup final in 1991. This was followed up by a winners medal in the 1992 League Cup final against Notts Forest which saw Irwin face Keane.


Together, Cork’s Red Devils were outstanding on the side which demolished Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final.

Denis Irwin among the Man United players celebrating their FA Cup final win. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA. 
Denis Irwin among the Man United players celebrating their FA Cup final win. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA. 

In 1957 when Villa defeated Man Utd in the Cup final the Cork Examiner felt that a single two inch by one-inch column was all that was required for the match report on its Monday edition while the Evening Echo didn’t even bother to mention it.

However, 'De paper' went all out in 1994 when there was so much Red in its eight-page FA Cup preview one could have been reading the Manchester Evening News.

GAA writers, religious affairs correspondents, and news editors all joined the soccer desk to have a say.

It appeared that Chelsea had very few fans in Academy Street except life time supporter Noel Spillane who shamelessly sat in a delirious section reserved for United fans at Wembley.

United became the fourth team of the 20th century to complete the cup and league double which was accomplished with second-half goals from Cantona (two pens), Hughes and McClair.

Ref David Elleray said later that he regretted awarding United’s second penalty, “it was my big game and I made a very disappointing decision”, he said.

On the week before the 1995 decider Man Utd’s dream of a double double went up in smoke when they lost their league title to Blackburn.

A miserable seven days was compounded when Paul Rideout’s headed goal gave Everton their fifth FA Cup and Man Utd were left without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.

Man Utd were severely handicapped by the loss of three key players — Eric Cantona (suspended), Andrei Kanchelskis (injured), and Andy Cole (cup tied) — who between them contributed 41 goals during the season.

Steve Bruce sustained an injury and was replaced after the interval by Ryan Giggs with Keane moving to right back.

An amusing incident occurred during the trophy presentation. Steve Bruce led the losers up the steps first (which was traditional), Charles, Prince of Wales, reached out to lift the FA Cup, decorated in blue ribbons, to present to the United skipper.

An FA official who acted quickly first took the lid off the trophy and then gripped the other handle to prevent him giving it to Bruce. Last man up the steps was Everton manager Joe Royle and when the Prince congratulated him Joe couldn’t resist saying to him, “I’m a member of the 'Royle Family' too".

Charles, not having the vaguest clue who he was, totally ignored Joe’s light hearted comment.

A few days before the 1996 final with Liverpool, Man Utd secured their third league title in four years and appearing in their third consecutive final were the bookies favourites to complete another double.

The match, despite the deadly rivalry between the teams, was a very ordinary affair, rarely sparking into life with key players Steve McManaman and Eric Cantona blotted out by Roy Keane and Jamie Redknapp. Keepers Schmeichmel and James were rarely seriously tested and it always looked like one goal would decide the game.

And so it did. Five minutes from time James punched a corner kick away which landed at Cantona’s feet and the Frenchman shot the ball home through a crowded area.

Keane who covered every blade of grass was the unanimous Man of the Match Award winner. Irwin never put a foot wrong and as usual lived up to his Mr Dependable title on his last FA Cup final appearance; he missed the 1999 victory through suspension.

Roy Keane of Man Utd is tackled from behind by Gary Speed, resulting in Keane going off injured during the 1999 FA Cup final. Picture: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT
Roy Keane of Man Utd is tackled from behind by Gary Speed, resulting in Keane going off injured during the 1999 FA Cup final. Picture: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT

The last decade of the 20th century had been glorious for United and they ended it with a remarkable but unlikely FA Cup, Premiership and Champions League treble. Their thrilling extra-time semi-final victory over Arsenal was rated one of the best cup ties of all time.

Beckham put United ahead, Berghamp equalised midway through the second half. Anelka had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside, Keane (second yellow) was sent off for a cynical tackle on Overmars. Bergkamp missed a golden opportunity to win it for Arsenal, but his injury-time penalty was saved by Schmeichmel.

Fittingly the magnificent match was decided by a wonder solo goal hammered home by Ryan Giggs. For the final United, with an eye on the Champions League decider, rested several key players for the decider versus Newcatle.

Keane and Scholes were suspended for the European match so took their customary roles in midfield at Wembley. Irwin missed out on the final due to a harsh red card that he received at Anfield on May 5 where United won a precious point in a 2-2 draw (United won the League by one point).

Denis Irwin scored United’s second goal that day. Alex Ferguson described Irwin’s sending off as “an affront to commonsense... it ruled out one of the best-behaved and most respected pros in England out of the Cup final”.

Denis missed out on a winners medal which would have seen him become, on his transfer to Wolves in 2002, Man Utd’s most celebrated player of all-time with 15 major trophies (excluding Charity Shield), one ahead of Ryan Giggs.

The decider against Newcastle was more typical of a third round than a final beginning in whirlwind fashion with tackles flying in particularly in midfield where Keane and Scholes battled with Dietmar Hamman and Gary Speed. Keane hurt his ankle and had to be substituted after just nine minutes. His replacement Teddy Sherringham made an immediate impact and gave United the lead two minutes after his introduction.

Scholes wrapped it all up when he beat Harper from 20 yards in the 53rd minute.

The prestige of the FA Cup received a hammer blow the following year when United decided not to defend their trophy choosing instead to compete in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil which clashed with the English Cup. Incidentally, United exited at the group stages in Brazil winning only one of the three gamers played.

When United next reached the FA Cup final in 2004 it was played in the Millennium Stadium where they won it for the 11th time comfortably defeating first division Millwall 3-0 with goals from Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy (2).

Manchester United's Roy Keane with the FA Cup in 2004. Picture:  John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
Manchester United's Roy Keane with the FA Cup in 2004. Picture:  John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

The Londoners reached the final without having met any club from the Premiership along the way. Roy Keane and Darren Fletcher dominated midfield with the former’s driving runs causing panic in the Millwall box.

The Corkman, who set a post-war record of six FA Cup final appearances said, “it’s always nice to win, the last is always the nicest.

"The goal before half-time was crucial as Millwall had grown in confidence. It was about being patient and hoping quality would tell, which it did.”

It was his last appearance for United in an FA Cup final as he joined Celtic in 2005.

There was a time when former Cork City, Sunderland, and Hull player David Meyler feared he might never walk properly again.

In 2010 while playing with Sunderland against Man Utd he was stretchered off with a cruciate injury.

The prognosis for recovery was 12 months but Dave returned to action sooner than expected. Unfortunately, after just five appearances disaster struck again, this time suffering medial ligament damage to the same right knee.

It looked as if his career might be over, but surgeon Steve Bullion did a remarkable job.

David was reunited with his former Sunderland manager Steve Bruce when he went on loan (later permanent) to Hull in 2012. Three years following his second major surgery the Corkman was able to look forward to an FA Cup Final appearance against Arsenal in 2014 after contributing on the road to Wembley with goals in sixth round against his former team Sunderland and semi-final versus Sheff Utd.

Hull players including David Meyler celebrate against Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Hull players including David Meyler celebrate against Arsenal in the FA Cup.

On a balmy, cloudy Saturday at Wembley, the 2014 FA Cup Final between Arsenal (The Gunners) and Hull City (The Tigers) would produce the highest scoring match for nearly a decade and a dramatic comeback that would be sealed in extra-time.

Arsene Wenger’s team were under a lot of pressure to win a trophy as the club had infamously underachieved since their last triumphant FA Cup win in 2005. Hull City, in their unique black and yellow striped kit, would be at the opposite end of the spectrum as they were looking forward to their first ever FA Cup Final appearance.

Often disregarded over the years as a downtrodden area on the East coast of Yorkshire that had seen its best days, the football team had been a shining light for the local population in recent times.

Hull started the final at a very high tempo overwhelming Arsenal to lead 2-0, with scores from Chester and Davies after just eight minutes.

They could have had a third a minute later but Alex Bruce’s shot was headed off the goal line. High energy performances from Hull’s midfielders Livermore, Huddlestone, and Meyler posed all kinds of problems for the Gunners.

The old cliché ‘a game of two halves’ was certainly true as the Gunners took complete control after the interval and forced extra-time thanks to goals from Cazorla and Kosceilny.

In the 19th minute of extra-time Ramsey fired home the winner assisted by a neat back-heeled pass from Giroud.

Hull battled to the end and Fabianski came to Arsenal’s rescue in the closing minutes with a fine save from Aluko.


Damien Delaney, Crystal Palace’s 34-year-old central defender, was appearing in Wembley for the third time when he lined out against raging favourites Man Utd in the 2016 FA Cup final.

Damien Delaney tackling at Wembley. 
Damien Delaney tackling at Wembley. 

Damien was there twice previously starring in a 2013 play-off victory over Watford and the semi-final win over the same opposition.

Like Dave Meyler, Delaney played Gaelic football with St Michael’s before commencing his soccer career.

Palace looked on course to end their 111-year major trophy drought when Jason Puncheon hammered home Delaney’s lofted pass in the 78th minute initiating an eccentric side-line celebration dance from manager Alan Pardew.

Five minutes later the music stopped for the dancing Pardew as Juan Mata ensured extra-time when he swept home the equaliser following a clever chest down from Marouane Fellaine.

The decisive score arrived in the 110th minute when sub Jesse Lingard’s volley gave 10-man United their eleventh FA Cup.

Chris Smalling was sent off in extra-time for a second yellow while there were a total of 10 issued over the 120 minutes. Delaney was booked in the second half for a tackle on Marcus Rojo who left the pitch with the Cork giant’s stud-prints as a souvenir.

Wayne Rooney, already on a yellow, was lucky to escape unpenalised for another dodgy tackle.

Under-fire Louis Van Gaal’s last act as manager of Man Utd was to lift the FA Cup as he was sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho the following day.

Pardew felt his team were robbed, “We had a few decisions that went against us. My players gave everything and they deserved to win,” hesaid.

A disappointed Damien Delaney gave another wholehearted display in the face of almost constant Man Utd pressure.

Wembley remains a magical place for football fans of all generations, and is still revered the world over. Chelsea and Leicester supporters will be looking forward to this weekend when the two clubs meet in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

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